It was slightly more than 20 years ago. A delightful summer afternoon, ironically this memory includes me mowing the lawn. Ironic because I because I mow lawns for a living in the summer. My friend John is walking by. I stop what I’m doing to visit. He tells me about a new type of treatment program that is solely based on the spiritual principles found in the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous. At this point, having a little more than 2 years of continuous sobriety/clean time. I thought, boy I sure wish I could go there.
Well little did I know at that time, what the mighty Jester of the Cosmos had written in the book of my life. On November 16th, 1998 I entered the program at The Retreat.
The first thing that hit me was, during a Big Book study with Roger B. He says. “I hope you’re DONE and not just here to take a break.” Woah, just woah. Yes, I’m so done. The next thing was again Roger B. “Are you willing to believe in the possibility?” That a Higher Power could restore me to sanity. Yes! That would be the beginning of an intention to improve my conscious contact with God “as I understand God” which is impossible to comprehend. The basis of which is how I am willing to carry on without chemicals.
Fast forward to today. I have discovered the enlightened self-interest of, and the key to staying sober is helping others to recover. Wait, how can I help? What do I have to offer? Well as it turns out I have my experience. Which through sharing that, I am able to stay in recovery from addiction. I have found something else even more valuable than my experience. It is worth more than any material or financial commodity. It costs nothing but requires an immense amount of energy if offered with intention.
The most valuable thing is My Attention
Giving freely of my attention is the most generous thing I can do. With attention I discover understanding and that is what I get in return.
And boy, do I have some. Astronomical in size comes to mind. What brought this on? One might ask. Well, I’ll tell you. If you have been following along, you know of my desire to help. Well, it has become painfully apparent that I can do more.
Through reading blogs, scripture, news and so on. The question arises, what have you done for “the least of mine”. Not a lot I must admit. Lately, though I have given some dollars to those requesting “anything helps” at intersections.
I had, in the past, thought that these people were actually just doing this for their job and that they probably made more money than I do. Upon reflection, I found within that this was devoid of compassion.
Another area in my sorted life, where I find room for improvement is in refraining from the judgment of others. This has been brought about reading from Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island “If we are to love sincerely, and with simplicity…We must somehow strip ourselves of our greatest illusions about ourselves, frankly recognize in how many ways we are unlovable, descend into the depths of our being until we come to the basic reality that is in us, and learn to see that we are lovable after all in spite of everything”, and that we are loved precisely because of our flaws.
As I emerge from the other side, I am better able to love, any and all. And, most important understand.
I wouldn’t mind having a conversation with this innocent fellow.
Have you ever been stricken with a sudden drastic change in appearance? One where you just want to avoid seeing or especially talking to people. I had that happen to me last night. Eating my late night huge bowl of cereal. When I realize my front tooth was detached from where it belongs.
I have been what I like to refer to as an ideal dental patient. It is however expensive to keep up for me. Turns out a filling failed and lead to the whole thing coming apart. Oh well, I’ll get back to the dentist.
My point here is I was consumed all day with, thinking about it. What shall I do if I encounter anyone? I’ll just get my work done and hide out until I can get the damn thing fixed. I was forgetful, inattentive, distracted, my whole day was like I was not of this earth.
I found though, that I was more aware of myself and actually enjoyed my work day tremendously. I slowed down and noticed how much smoother my day went than the previous day.
This has definitely been a wake-up call to take care of things I’ve been putting off. I just want to keep working and taking care of my customers, and I can wait until more convenient time to get these things attended to. NOT!
Well, I’ll be hiding out until I can get my tooth/teeth taken care of. Have a great weekend!
In light of the disastrous nature of discourse in the headlines, I am struck with the poignancy of Thomas Merton’s words in this excerpt from No Man Is an Island written in 1955
“I cannot make good choices unless I develop a mature and prudent conscience that gives me an accurate account of my motives, my intentions, and my moral acts. The word to be stressed here is mature. An infant, not having a conscience, is guided in its “decisions” by the attitude of somebody else. The immature conscience is one that bases its judgments partly, or even entirely, on the way other people seem to be disposed toward its decisions. The good is what is admired or accepted by the people it lives with. The evil is what irritates or upsets them. Even when the immature conscience is not entirely dominated by people outside itself, it nevertheless acts only as a representative of some other conscience. The immature conscience is not its own master. It is merely the delegate of the conscience of another person, or of a group, or of a party, or of a social class, or of a nation, or of a race. Therefore, it does not make real moral decisions of its own, it simply parrots the decisions of others. It does not make judgments of its own, it merely “conforms” to the party line. It does not really have motives or intentions of its own. Or if it does, it wrecks them by twisting and rationalizing them to fit the intentions of another. That is not moral freedom. It makes true love impossible. For if I am to love truly and freely, I must be able to give something that is truly my own to another. If my heart does not first belong to me, how can I give it to another? It is not mine to give.”
Woah, just woah! Have I some growing up to do. Just a bit of nutrition I am consuming.
“Unselfish love that is poured out upon a selfish object does not bring perfect happiness: not because love requires a return or a reward for loving, but because it rests in the happiness of the beloved. And if the loved one receives love selfishly, the lover is not satisfied. He sees that his love has failed to make the beloved happy. It has not awakened his/her capacity for unselfish love.
Hence the paradox that unselfish love cannot rest perfectly except in a love that is perfectly reciprocated: because it knows that the only true peace is found in selfless love. Selfless love consents to be loved selflessly for the sake of the beloved. In so doing, it perfects itself.
The gift of love is the gift of power and the capacity to love, and therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be given perfectly when it is also received.” Thomas Merton No Man Is an Island
Somehow I have intuitively known or felt this “truth” as Thomas Merton describes. I continually “fall on my sword” in relationship and expend good love after bad. I am helplessly attracted to women who are emotionally or physically unavailable. It is safer I guess.